Wired magazine has an interview with Oliver Sacks where he talks about cases from his forthcoming book on the neurology of music, and his own drug-induced experiences of seeing non-existent colours while listening to Monteverdi.
Hume wondered whether one can imagine a color that one has never encountered. One day in 1964, I constructed a sort of pharmacological mountain, and at its peak, I said, “I want to see indigo, now!” As if thrown by a paintbrush, a huge, trembling drop of purest indigo appeared on the wall ‚Äî the color of heaven. For months after that, I kept looking for that color. It was like the lost chord.
Then I went to a concert at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the first half, they played the Monteverdi Vespers, and I was transported. I felt a river of music 400 years long running from Monteverdi’s mind into mine. Wandering around during the interval, I saw some lapis lazuli snuffboxes that were that same wonderful indigo, and I thought, “Good, the color exists in the external world.” But in the second half I got restless, and when I saw the snuffboxes again, they were no longer indigo ‚Äî they were blue, mauve, pink. I’ve never seen that color since.
The interview is a glimpse of what his next book will contain, and also relates a case of a man with Alzheimer’s and severe memory impairment who can nonetheless take part in an acapella singing group. Seemingly his musical abilities survived his amnesia, not unlike Clive Wearing, who we discussed recently on Mind Hacks.
Link to Wired interview with Oliver Sacks.